Stinson, Martin Receive Gold Star Awards
In honor of USTA Missouri Valley’s 100th anniversary, the section is recognizing 100 deserving tennis providers, players, partners and more across our section throughout the year.
Selected nominees will be given a Gold Star award, recognizing them for the contributions they are making to support and grow the game in the USTA Missouri Valley based on specific program areas and attributes.
The two winners announced in the St. Louis district exemplify what it means to give back to the game that has given them so much.
Award winner Scott Stinson has played tennis for 44 years. His love for the game has morphed into giving back to underserved portions of the St. Louis community in two ways – through the East Saint Louis Community Tennis Association, as well as a blog – STLForgotten Courts. The blog tells stories of Stinson and his friends playing on area courts that have been….well, forgotten.
“Tennis has been an integral part of my life,” Stinson said. “Tennis in the 70's and 80's became really popular and was accessible to everyone. It seemed to us in the last few decades many public courts are empty with no programming. We decided to play on them and write about them and their neighborhoods.”
Stinson said writing about these courts and neighborhoods seeing tennis played there can encourage people to play the game.
“A funny thing happened along the way - we noticed that when you play tennis on these courts and folks see good tennis then they want to play. Everybody usually plays on the same few courts - we encourage people to get outside of their bubble and play somewhere new.”
Though the blog has been a fun part of tennis for Stinson—who was inspired to play by watching his parents on a public court and watching Breakfast at Wimbledon—it led to something greater.
The beginnings of the East St. Louis Community Tennis Association derived from the blog.
“The blog encouraged me and others to be a part of the solution to bringing tennis to underserved areas,” Stinson said. The association has worked in East St. Louis to build some great new courts and teach tennis to hundreds of young tennis players.”
The young generation has found innovative ways to reach a younger audience, too. Gold Star Award Winner Maya Martin is a great tennis player – and a fantastic ambassador of the game – to her generation and beyond.
Martin is finishing her sophomore year at Lafayette High School in Wildwood and is a Net Generation Ambassador. She said she is beyond excited to have received the Gold Star Award and be nominated by someone as impactful in her life as USTA St. Louis Tennis Service Representative Carli Connors.
“It’s an honor to receive the Gold Star Award for merely following my passion,” Martin said. “Carli is a tremendous influence and I am grateful for her support. I am thrilled to give back to a sport that has given me so much. The feeling of aliveness I have on the tennis court is something I want so many others to experience.”
Martin is heavily involved in USTA in many facets; more than just a player (though she plays Junior Team Tennis and is active in junior tournaments), Martin is dedicated to growing the game in her community with her work as a Net Generation Ambassador. The role has given her the opportunity to travel the country.
Connors and Martin have worked together to see tennis be a game accessible for all in the St. Louis area. She believes Martin has the dedication and passion for tennis to go far with her efforts.
“Maya is such a wonderful person! At 16 years old, she is smarter, more mature and more put together than most 30 year olds I know,” Connors said. “She is so confident in herself, she is true to herself and what she knows and loves. It was easy nominating Maya because I cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this award than she.”
Unfortunately, Martin and Connor’s project slated for April was cancelled due to COVID-19. Maya’s Kids Day was one to get kids out to courts—for free—for an introduction to tennis. With a DJ and Kona Ice, it was set to be a day of fun and learning.
“The dedication and passion for tennis doesn't just happen on the court, it happens off the court as well,” Connors said. “She was planning an entire kids day event because she wanted to help grow the game of tennis to kids and get them to love the sport the way she does. Maya is an amazing girl and I have no doubt in my mind that she will be going big places one day.
Follow Martin on Instagram @ _mytennislife_ to see more on her adventures as a Net Generation Ambassador.
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